Your Right to a Union

The Law Says You Have a Right to Join a Union

You have the legal right to do the following under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act:

  • Attend meetings to discuss joining a union.
  • Read, distribute, and discuss union literature (as long as you do this in non-work areas during non-work times, such as during breaks or lunch hours.)
  • Wear union buttons, T-shirts, stickers, hats, or other items on the job.
  • Sign a card asking your employer to recognize and bargain with the union.
  • Sign petitions or file grievances related to wages, hours, working conditions, and other job issues.
  • Ask other employees to support the union, to sign union cards or petitions, or to file grievances.

Secret-Ballot Elections

One way of proving that a union has majority support is through a secret-ballot “representation election” conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

You have a legal right to participate in that election without interferences from your employer.

“Good Faith” Bargaining

After the union’s election victory is officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board, your employer is legally required to negotiate in “good faith” with the union on a written contract covering wages, hours, and other working conditions.

Protection From Employers Action

Under Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, your employer cannot legally punish or discriminate against any worker because of union activity.

For example, your employer cannot legally do the following:

  • Threaten to or actually fire, lay off, discriminate, harass, transfer, or reassign employees because they support the union.
  • Favor employees who don’t support the union over those who do in promotions, job assignments, wages, hours, enforcement of rules, or any other working condition.
  • Threaten to or actually take away jobs, pay, or any benefits or privileges employees already enjoy in order to discourage union activity.
  • Promise employees a pay increase, promotion, benefit, or special favor if they oppose the union.

Enforcing Your Rights

Some employers try to prevent the workers from joining a union. The best way to encourage your employer to recognize your union and negotiate a fair contract is to build a strong organization where you work. CWA’s staff will help you do that. In addition, CWA’s organizers, staff representatives, and attorneys will help you enforce your legal rights at every step of the way. If necessary, CWA will file “unfair labor practice” charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Labor Board has the power – backed up by the federal courts – to order an employer to stop interfering with employee rights and to reverse any action taken against workers for union activity.

You can help protect your legal rights by:

  • Keeping written notes of any incidents in which company officials or supervisors threaten, harass, or punish workers because of union activity.
  • Immediately reporting any such incidents to your organizing committee and CWA staff.

Your notes don’t have to be worded a certain way, but you should include what was said or done, who was involved, where and when it happened, and the names of any witnesses.

The National Labor Relations Act Says:

Section 7: “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining…”

Section 8(a): “It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer… to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7…”